While the practice of spiritual direction originated in the earliest days of the Christian faith, for many of us it remains uncharted territory. Perhaps you’re even wondering: What is spiritual direction? Why do people seek it? What are the benefits of meeting with a spiritual director? How do I find one? Let me offer a few insights based on my own experience.
As Christians, we need to listen for God as he speaks into our lives. In an ideal world, we would have little difficulty hearing the voice of God. However, most of us live in a noisy world where it can be a challenge to discern his leading. As we seek to be more sensitive to God’s Spirit, we can benefit from inviting someone to help us be better attuned to God’s voice. This is the task of a spiritual director.
Spiritual directors are not gurus who provide answers for all our questions or challenges. They are people who have been specifically trained to accompany others in the quest for a deeper relationship with God. In fact, it may be best to view God as the true Spiritual Director who enables these people to minister his grace to their directees.
Benefits of the Process
There are many reasons why people seek spiritual direction. Some may be looking for help in finding God’s will for significant life decisions. Others may be in the midst of a crisis. Many, however, seek out a spiritual director simply because they want to deepen their relationship with God and they recognize the value of inviting another mature Christian to support them in that journey. The relationship may be for a season of life—such as to offer some stability during a time of transition—or may extend for many years.
When I began meeting with a spiritual director, one of the first things I noticed was the emphasis on listening. While we pray, talk and read Scripture together, the focus is on listening for what God is saying. The meetings with my director are not two-way dialogues, but rather three-way conversations with God as the primary contributor. For that reason we allow periods of silence, which help us be attentive to God. The director’s role consists primarily of listening to the Spirit, listening to whatever I choose to share, and helping me to discover ways in which I can be more aware of and responsive to what the Spirit is saying to me. In this sense, spiritual direction has also become an expression of Christian community where I am ministered to by a fellow pilgrim.
There are several aspects of spiritual direction that I have come to appreciate. One is the intentionality of the process. The relationship with my spiritual director is different from any other because it exists for the specific purpose of nurturing my relationship with God. This frees us to keep the conversation focused on how God has been active in my life and what I am learning about God and myself through that process. Initially this felt like a luxury. How many of us have the privilege of having ongoing conversations that centre on our spiritual well-being? I also felt self-conscious about inviting another person to be so attentive to my spiritual life. After the first few meetings, however, I came to accept this time as a gift from God that helps me grow deeper in my relationship with him.
Secondly, meeting with my spiritual director provides me with an oasis amid the busyness of life. We meet once a month, so I can be assured that whatever else is happening, there will be that quiet hour when I can pause to reflect more deeply on what God is doing in me and through me. I do not mean to suggest that this replaces spiritual disciplines such as prayer and keeping the Sabbath. Rather, it is a gentle means of keeping me accountable for the way I integrate these disciplines into my life.
Spiritual direction may not be for everyone. Each person’s experience will be different, just as each of us is a unique creation of God. For me, its intentionality has helped me transition from seeing time with God as a luxury, to viewing it as key to nurturing my relationship with him. Since this relationship affects every other aspect of my life, I need to ensure that it is a priority. What could be more important than that?
How do I find a spiritual director?
Look for someone who is:
• qualified and accredited
• a good fit in the initial interview
• recommended by others
• connected with a Christian worshipping community
To obtain a list of spiritual directors in your area, contact Major David Ivany, territorial spiritual director and pastoral services officer, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Major Gail Winsor is the leadership development resource officer, THQ personnel services.